Saturday, June 22, 1974
THE MICHIGAN DAILY
City private eyes hunt in formation
By JOHN McMANUS
Next time a telephone repair-
man comes to your door, ask
to see his identification. He
could be a private investigator
with a "pretext."
Pretext is what detectives call
lying or misrepresenting your-
self, according to local private
eyes. A detective dressed as a
telephone repairman, for in-
stance, may "want to check the
amount of static on your long
distance calls," they explain.
THE PRETEXT gives him
entry to your house and a
chance to learn how the kids
are dressed, how you keep your
house and who lives there. All
of this information may be po-
tentionally valuable to paying
clients for determining your fit-
ness for child custody, for ex-
The same investigative tactic
can be used to pry loose a stu-
dent's grades from the Univer-
sity registrar's office by a de-
tective impresonating "a po-
Or a neighbor might become
more talkative if assured that
the investigator is merely an
insurance agent on a routine
check of a policy buyer.
C I T Y PRIVATE detectives
Bill Strubank and Claude Dam-
ron both do this kind of investi-
gative work. But they say their
jobs bear little resemblance to
the glamorous career of TV's
Joe Mannix, who often seems to
be mainly a hired gun for the
"p watch these private eye
p r o g r a m s," Damron says.
"They're sort of humorous,
They always seem to get the job
done within an hour. It always
seems it's under the best of
conditions and dealing with the=
upper class . . .I'm sure all
private investigators, -like my-
self, look at these kind of pro-
grams with a chuckle. It's more.
of a dreamer's view of what a
private eye is. There's nothing
really glamorous about it."
Damron spent 18 of his 22
years with the Ann Arbor police
as a plainclothesman. Now, nine
years after- leaving his police
job, he is "pretty much a
loner" running his own agency,
S T R U B A N K is operations
nanager for Sanford Security,
i company whose main line is
uec-rity wads ("No danmn it.
not rent-a-cop," Strubank in- method rarely comes to light ious and the parents will be-
sists.) in non-criminal investigatioas." come concerned. They'll get a
Both Damron and Strubank In such cases both Strubank and name. And then they want to
spend most of their time seek- Damron agree illegal electronic know who is my son or daugh-
ing specific information. Clients surveillance is sometimes em- ter going with?"
as mundane as insurance com- ployed. . "I guess it's probably normal
panies, law firms and worried Both men deny their agencies for any parent to be concern-
parents call them for help. A use illegal bugs. Damron claims ed," he says. "And so they will
lawyer calls to check out a wit- that wiretapping and electronic use a private investigator to
nesses' story. spying are "the fastest 'way to look into this person's back-
Because the real-life private lose your (detective's) license." ground."
eye charges around $10 per hour Private eyes are licensed by SOMETIMES private eyes are
There can be a frightening aspect of social cases. As Strubank
points out: 'The law limits what can be used in the courts but the in-
vestigative method iarely comes to light in non-criminal investiga-
tions.' In such cases both Strubank and Damron agree illegal elec-
tronic surveillance is sometimes employed. Both men deny their
agencies use illegal bugs. Damron claims that wiretapping and
electronic spying are 'the fastest way to lose your (detective's) li-
plus expenses for his services
he is usually hired by those who
have money and require infor-
mation in order to keep it.
These clients include insurance
companies who find it irksome
to pay for the injuries of a
claimant. There are also doting
fathers who wish to find out if
their daughter or son's intended
spouse meets their expectations.
DAMRON SAYS much of his
work is now coming from law
firms. Often he is hired to
gather information in support
of an indigent defendant by a
However, private detectives
spend most of their time on so-
cial and civil investigations.
Criminal investigations are us-
ually conducted by the police.
According to Damron and Stru-
bank - not all police are as
clumsy as the gumshoes por-
trayed on television serials.
But there is often a thin line
between a social and legal case
Strubank says. "The injured
party must sign a complaint
for a case to come before a
judge. Very often there are rea-
sons to bring an individual to
court but the injured party de-
clines to prefer charges. This
happens 99 times out of 100 in
THERE CAN be a frightening
aspect of social cases, however.
As Strubank points out: "The
law limits what can be used in
the courts ht the investi2 ive
the state and irregularities are
investigated by the Michigan
IN THE LAST five years'
there has been a changing mix
of civil cases into which private
eyes have been called, the two
men say. Since the new divorce
laws made splitting up easier,
private detectives are no longer
preoccupied with pre-dawn raids
on motels and popping flash
bulbs. "Messy investigations,"
Damron says with a crinkled
Likewise the advent of no-
fault car insurance has elimi-
nated the need to find a guilty
party. Private investigators
like Damron, however, are still
hired by insurance companies
to eavesdrop on those who are
sung for injuries the company
feels inappropriate to the acci-
dent. Before no-fault such busi-
ness consumed the bulk of
Despite the loss of revenue in
these two areas "business is
good" Damron says. A tele-
phone check of several other in-
vestigative agencies reveals a
city of busy snoopers.
A TYPE of social investiga-
tion Damron is asked to pursue
involves students and faculty
at the University.
"You may have a son or
daughter going here to the Uni-
versity, coming from a good
family. He or she will be going
with somneoneandheomine ser-
employed by students, Damron
continues. "On a number of oc-
casions investigators have been
called in - someone is report-
ing something that is embarras-
sing and they feel it's really not
a police matter . .."
Professors also use the serv-
ice, according to Damron. "I
have done investigations for
professors who quietly wanted
another of their profession
checked out. For what means
I don't know and I don't inquire.
I just do the investigation.
"Many times they are look-
ing for academic information,
that a person did in fact attend
a certain school, get a doc-
torate, did in fact . . . teach
at a certain college, to yerify
his qualifications. Personal da-
ta, character, anything that
might be detrimental to his
reputation goes along with this
type of investigation."
AND HOW does one go about
such an investigation? "It's
easy," Strubank says, "to get a
good background of the aver-
age citizen. It can be done
without any problem at all."
First of all, Strubank ex-
plains, there are many records
open to the public; birth cer-
tificates, real estate records,
automotive ownerships, mar-
riage and divorce records and
credit ratings among others.
Strubank and Damron agree
there's no substitute for first-
hand questioning of subjects,
their enemies, friends, acquain-
tances and creditors. "You'd be
surprised how many people are
willing to talk about you,"
"OF COURSE people are a
little suspicious of who they're
talking to," Damron adds. In
such circumstances it's neces-
sary to blend into the surround-
"It' very typical in one day
to be talking to the president of
a big company over a problem
they've got and then the same
night, dress in old clothes, go
into the neighborhood and you
have to assume an entirely dif-
ferent posture and appearance
. . . Being an actor is part of
the game. Imagination plays a
very big part."
Since neither Damron nor
Strubank could blend into a
student population, they hire
students to investigate for them.
The student can ask questions
without arousing suspicion. Oft-
en he will befriend the subject
of the investigation.
ANY INFORMATION -can be
had, according to Damron, if
the investigator is determined
and imaginative enough. To
that Strubank adds that nearly
anything can be had for the
right price, including a college
or advanced degree.
Private detectives work in a
unique pulse spot in society. As
Damron explains, "People
come to us when they need to
know something and are uncom-
fortable enough to pay for it."
June, July, Aug.
201 E. Liberty
ATTICA BRIGADE in
Conjunction with FRIENDS
OF NEWSREEL present
at 7:15 P.M.
ONE EYED JACKS
Modern Language Auditorium
admission $1.25, $2.00 for both shows
After the storm
Two Minneapolis men, head out on Lake Nokomis after a severe thunderstorm capsized their
sailboat Thursday. They eventually got it righted. Recent Ann Arbor weather might make city
residents wish they had the same kind of work to do.